Compensation and imperfect information : Do previous school results matter differently depending on students’ social background?ISER External Seminars

This paper explores the existence of interactions between two well-known causes of socioeconomic differentials in educational attainment, namely cognitive inequalities as reflected in school results and class-specific cost-benefit calculations regarding educational transition. We study if school results (used by families to estimate their children’s possibilities of succeeding in further
levels) have a class-specific impact in key transitions within the educational system. We discuss two different mechanisms of class-specific impact. A compensatory effect may take place if inequality is larger among the worst performing students. Upper class students, then, with bad school results would still move to higher educational levels, while lower class students with bad school results would drop out. This might happen if the upper classes have stronger incentives to pursue ambitious school careers independently of the low estimated chances of succeeding and/or they have the social, cultural and economic resources needed to compensate for previous bad school
results. However, inequality can be higher among average performers. Good and bad school results send stronger messages and clearer information than scores in the middle of the distribution. When students are given average scores, families could be less able to infer from their offspring performance her chances of succeeding. If upper and lower class handle differently imperfect information, the impact of social origin should be larger for average grades. To test these hypotheses we use French data (Panel d’Élèves du Second Degré), a panel study that yearly followed a cohort of students entering in compulsory secondary school in 1995 and leaving this stage in 1999-2000.

Presented by:

Fabrizio Bernardi (UNED, Madrid)

Date & time:

14 Jun 2010 15:00 pm - 14 Jun 2010 16:30 pm

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